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Non-binary Genders

One of the most interesting recent developments in relation to gender experience are the increasing numbers of people identifying in some way outside of the gender binary. This presentation introduces some ways of doing this & draws out implications

Meg John Barker

on 24 August 2016

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Transcript of Non-binary Genders

Gender currently seen as dichotomous in west
Earlier women were seen as inferior men
Other cultures continuum/multiple e.g. Hijra - India; Tom, Dee & Kathoey -Thailand; Bissu, Calabai, & Calalai - some Indonesian communities
Rooted in heteronormativity - needing others to shore you up - unification of gay rights, feminism - systems based on intrinsically linked hierarchy of het/hom & men/women - but most have remained within this - not questioning it.
Bem - central research - androgyny healthy - arguing to eradicate gender (sex as important as eye colour - can be hetero/homo)

Some history

Today: The Facebook Gender Revolution?
Diverse experiences of non-binary gender
Sex & gender non-binary at all levels (chromosomal, hormonal, primary/secondary sex characteristics, neural, gender roles, etc., Fausto-Sterling)
Intersex estimate - 0.5 to 2% - of course not all intersex folk ID as non-binary and not all non-binary folk are intersex
Highlights gender as biopsychosocial - differing extents in differing combinations
Iantaffi/Richards - 10-15% of trans* people who seek support (0.1%) are non-binary, but not all non-binary folk see selves as trans* (challenge cis/trans* binary e.g. if remain in gender assigned at birth but appear otherwise)
Metro Centre recent study - 5% not M/F - but - LGBTQ young people & internet/research engaged
Scottish Trans Alliance (2012) survey on trans mental health over 1/4 identified as non-binary or agendered
Also difficulty knowing how many people would identify if available (e.g. rural/urban Minesota schools - gay/trans*)
Joel et al. (2013) in a general population 35% felt to some extent as the ‘other’ gender, as both men and women &/or as neither

Prevalence of non-binary genders
Commonality of questioning somebody's preferred pronoun - 'made-up words' / grammatical correctness
Offers means of hiding discomfort behind seemingly legitimate concern
Non-gendered pronouns:
Zie/zim/zirs/zirself; Sie/hir/hir/hirself; Per/per/pers/perself
Or existing word 'they' - some dislike due to plurality, some prefer for same reason
Ask etiquette
If get wrong - apologise and move on
Pronouns at introductions good practice
References to people by gender e.g. that man/woman, boy/girl rather than person. Sir/Madam, love/guv/darling/mate - context
Name change: none, gender neutral name, initials, two names, middle name in brackets, different names on different occasions
Relationship words e.g. partner, sibling, offspring, parent
Some may accept/embrace being gendered as M/W on different occasions given current unlikelihood of not being gendered at all
Non-verbal communication
Other aspects of language
Adopting appearance of gender other than assigned at birth, cultivating androgynous appearance, adopting aspects of 'masculinity' and 'femininity' simultaneously, different according to context, changing over time
Issues around body image ideals for non-binary people (e.g. images of androgyny = thin, white, no visible disability, fashion conscious)
Avoid gender demographics unless relevant, provide further options if so
Visibility of non-binary people (diversity)
Avoid any segregation around gender (boys vs. girls, etc.)
Non-gendered toilets
Press for non-gendered option on passports etc. like Australia/India
Support parents not gendering children
Activism around gendered toys, clothes, etc. (coercively gendering kids - Fine, 2011)
Important: Wider culture still v. binary - reflecting on implications (e.g. when older, for travelling, if change job) - not expecting poster children (e.g. queer academia)
Lack of available scripts - risk of crab buckets as with androgynous appearance
Recommended Reading
Bornstein, K. (1997). My gender workbook. New York, NY: Routledge.
Bornstein, K., & Bergman, S. B. (Eds.), (2010). Gender outlaws: The next generation. New York, NY: Avalon Publishing Group.
Fausto-Sterling, A. (2012). Sex/gender: Biology in a social world. Routledge.
Queen, C., & Schimel, L. (Eds). (1997). PoMoSexuals. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press Inc.
Wilchins, R. A. (1997). Read my lips: Sexual subversion & the end of gender. Ann Arbor: Firebrand Books.

Barker, M. (2013). Gender beyond the binary. DIVA magazine, September 2013, 54-55.
Barker, M. (2013). Gender. In Rewriting the Rules. London: Routledge.
Richards, C. & Barker M. (2013). Further Genders. In Sexuality and Gender for Mental Health Professionals. London: Sage.
Barker, M. (2014). 57 genders (and none for me)? Reflections on the new facebook gender categories. www.rewriting-the-rules.com, February 15th 2014.

nonbinary.org, transawareness.org, cnlester.wordpress.com, elancane.livejournal.com

Photographs from www.identityprojectsf.com

Non-binary Genders
Bem (1995) - shift - way to transform gender is to turn the volume up, not down: '
I propose that we let a thousand categories of sex/gender/desire begin to bloom in any and all fluid and permeable configurations and, through that very proliferation, that we thereby undo the privileged status of the two-and-only-two that are currently treated as normal and natural.'

2014 Facebook proliferation of genders
Potential surgeries or hormonal interventions (becoming possible on NHS, possible privately) - don't assume, asking about genitals is as rude as for anyone else! (trans* aware media)
Incorporating aspects of both man and woman:
Mixed gender, sometimes pangender, androgynous.
Having no gender:
Gender neutral, non-gendered, genderless, agender, neuter, neutrois.
Moving between genders:
Bigender, gender fluid, sometimes pangender.
Being of a specific additional gender
(either between man and woman or otherwise additional to those genders): Third gender, other gender, sometimes pangender (includes both those who have a name for their gender and those who do not).
Moving between multiple genders:
Trigender, sometimes pangender.
Disrupting the gender dichotomy:
Genderqueer, genderfuck.
Full transcript